In this Dream Roll Blog I will share my Top 5 non-capital cities to visit around the world with a few highlights from each city.
I have been very lucky to have visited so many incredible cities around the world for sport and leisure and below is a list of my favourite cities for a variety of reasons, even though not all are totally wheelchair friendly and flat but have still made the list. So many things make a city memorable, and therefore to make my favourites list, from the history, accessibility and the locals, to the hostels, plus much more. So, let’s see what cities made my list in this Dream Roll blog.
St Petersburg - Russia
First up is St Petersburg. During my 2009 six-months racing and backpacking trip throughout Europe I managed to do a tour of Eastern Europe, which included one of my all-time favourite countries, Russia. I was blown away by this country and St Petersburg. There are countless palaces and churches to explore during your visit, which are also wheelchair accessible, plus many other historical sites including more recent historical sites.
A must see during any visit is a day trip out to see the Catherine Palace, the summer holiday house of the Russian Tsars, which is wheelchair friendly. St Petersburg was relatively flat and easy to get around in my wheelchair, but I still had to contend with the usual European cobblestones. As a wheelchair user it is still currently best to visit St Petersburg with a tour group, but, unfortunately, not many tour companies will take an independent wheelchair user on their tours. All the same, St Petersburg is very much worth the effort to visit during summer.
Barcelona - Spain
Barcelona is huge hit with tourists and makes my list of favourite non-capital cities. I have visited Barcelona a number of times over recent years for the Barcelona marathon, a track meet and for holidays, all at various times throughout the year. My favourite time to visit Barcelona is during summer, even with the large crowds which flock to the city during the warmer months. Barcelona is relatively flat, so is easy to push around to explore the main part of the city. Sightseeing buses are also a good way for a wheelchair user to get around to each of the major attractions, which are spread out over the city. I could spend days exploring this town and eating the fantastic local food. Unfortunately, I do not recommend the Barcelona FC stadium tour for wheelchair users as most parts are not accessible and really the only part I managed was the trophy room - not the team change rooms or press rooms and many other areas included on the visit to the stadium. The Real Madrid stadium is more wheelchair friendly and includes access to the pitch to see the view of the stadium from the team benches.
New York - USA
I have visited New York a number of times both in the summer and winter months. Both seasons offer different views and attractions during a visit. I love visiting New York during the summer months. My first few visits were during summer in late June for a time trial and 10km race and more recent visits have been in early November for the New York Marathon. My top attractions in New York include visits to Wall St, the Natural History Museum and the Empire State Building, all of which are wheelchair friendly. Unfortunately, New York can be hard to get around, as most cabs do not willingly stop for wheelchair users on the road. During my visits we often just push from one location to another, as the distances tend to be short. Other top things to do as a wheelchair user include a visit to a comedy show or recording of a TV show, plus one of the daily sporting events. Basketball, ice hockey, baseball and the NFL all occur during varying months with multiple New York teams all providing wheelchair access. I am yet to find an attraction in New York that’s not wheelchair friendly or one that disappoints, which also makes New York such an incredible city to visit.
Cuzco - Peru
Cuzco has made the list, even though it is one of the least wheelchair friendly cities I have explored due to it being so hilly and all the steps and cobblestones of the city. The Main Square is wheelchair friendly though, which is a good place to start any exploration of the city. Locals are very friendly and helpful, so anything is possible - even a quad bike tour through the Sacred Valley to see the historical sites of the area. There are a number of other activities that are also wheelchair friendly, but Cuzco is mainly used as the base town to visit Machu Picchu. The ancient Incan site is not wheelchair friendly, but it can be done by traveling by train, then a bus up the mountain, before climbing lots of stairs to experience lower parts of the ruins. More information about Peru can be seen in my Death Road Blog, My Top Travel Adventure Activities, and My Adventure in the Desert of Peru Blogs.
Luzern – Switzerland
Luzern has to make my list of favourite non-capital cities as it is the nearby town to Nottwil, where I am based for months on end during my annual visits to Switzerland. Luzern has many highlights and is just a stunning town on the lake that can be magical during a hot summer’s day. Trips to Luzern have to include a visit up one of the many nearby mountains, visit to the chocolate shop or just a lazy stroll around the Luzern Old Town.
These are just some of my favourite non-capital cities around the world. Other cities to narrowly miss out include Chicago, Los Angeles, Oita, Shanghai and Istanbul – all are well worth a visit. Until next time keep searching the world for your dream.